What NOT to wear touring Cathedrals

February 11, 2018

what not to wear touring cathedrals, churches in europe

When you are planning your next European vacation keep in mind what sites you will be visiting. Churches and cathedrals bring their own unique set of wardrobe challenges. Touring in the off season might be ideal to avoid many of the wardrobe pitfalls that befall many tourists. But high season for many European vacations is during the summer hot months. Which means we are choosing to wear shorts and tank tops when touring famous sites. What I am about to share will change the way you think about packing for a summer vacation in Europe. This is what not to wear touring cathedrals.what not to wear touring cathedrals, churches in europe, dress code


The first thing you should remember when touring cathedrals is to dress modestly. However even I will admit that my idea of dressing modestly might differ from yours. Someone older might have a different idea of what dress modestly means than someone young. More clarity is needed because no one wants to be on a tour and turned away because of a fashion faux pas.

The Vatican is extremely clear on what is and isn’t allowed to be worn when touring St. Peters Basilica.

st vitus cathdral, what not to wear touring a church

What not to wear touring Cathedrals

  1. Tank tops – sleeveless tops and dresses are not encouraged as both men and women will be asked to cover up. If it is extremely hot out the option is to wear the sleeveless clothing but bring a light sweater or jacket to cover up while touring the cathedral. A light scarf would also work to cover the shoulders whist on tour.
  2. Shorts – shorts are prohibited for both men and women at the Vatican. Men are explicitly requested to wear long pants. Women are requested to wear dresses, skirts and pants that go past the knee. So capri pants are ok. Churches other than at the Vatican are more lenient on this one but still request clothing that covers the knee.
  3. Short skirts – this one goes hand and hand with the no shorts rule. Short skirts are anything that is above the knee so think midi or maxi skirts so that you can be safe to enter the churches you are touring.
  4. Hats – hats are actually encouraged if you are attending an outdoor mass. However if you are inside a church please take your hats off as a sign of respect.

You will notice that nothing is said about what type of clothes only the level of modesty. According to the Vatican modest dress means covered shoulders and knees. Men in particular are singled out to wear long pants. However jeans and casual dress are allowed.

what you can wear touring churches, cathedrals in europe

So what should you pack to tour cathedrals? Trousers, long skirts, t-shirts, maxi dresses are all acceptable. Also make sure to pack a light cardigan, light scarf or light jacket just in case. If you are worried about being too hot in trousers choose fabrics like cotton and linen instead of heavier or synthetic fabrics.

What to pack for touring Cathedrals

  1. Floral Wrap Dress – this midi dress will be past your knees.
  2. Merino Pintuck Cardigan – a little white cardigan is perfect for layering over dresses when you need to be more modest.
  3. Luxury Touch stripe Polo – t-shirts are acceptable for men and women. This is classic and stylish, but still not too heavy or hot.
  4. Oxford standard fit short sleeve shirt – cotton shirts like this are airy and light for hot sightseeing.
  5. Minorca high Platform sandal – a sandal like this will go with all your skirts and dresses for travel. Platforms are easier to walk in than heels.
  6. Senella Rose Scarf – a light cotton scarf can easily be tied over your shoulders or over your hair for increased modesty.
  7. Rapid Movement denim wash jean – jeans are acceptable, more so than shorts!
  8. Slim Traveler pant – this are a nice alternative to jeans. Lighter fabrics make for more comfortable sightseeing.
  9. Straight denim jeans – remember denim is acceptable. It is better to be modest than fancy or trendy.
  10. Ruffle hem top in prairie blossoms – This pretty blouse is silk which will be airy and light for hot sightseeing. The sleeves will allow for increased modesty.
  11. New Balance 520 Sneakers – I love retro sneakers for sightseeing. They look cool but are still comfy.
  12. Nike Air Vortex sneakers – retro looking sneakers totally work for men too.
  13. Grand Horizon lace up oxfords – a bit more formal but still casual and comfy at the same time.

No one wants to be turned away from a special mass or religious tour because of a simple thing like clothing. We are used to very casual liberal dress codes in North America but with a few tweaks we can be assured entrance to everything we want to see while on vacation in Europe.

Now that you know what not to wear touring Cathedrals, will you change what you are packing?

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